2003–04 Los Angeles Lakers season

Horace Grant battles for a jump ball versus Memphis Grizzlies Pau Gasol in November 2003.

The 2003–04 NBA season was the Lakers' 56th season in the National Basketball Association and 44th in the city of Los Angeles.

The Lakers entered the season following a disappointing second-round loss to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs in the 2003 playoffs. During the offseason, the Lakers signed star free agents Karl Malone and Gary Payton and re-signed free agent power forward Horace Grant. Following these acquisitions, the Lakers became the instant favorites to win the NBA title.

Despite major acquisitions, key moves, and becoming overnight title favorites, the Lakers would run into major setbacks to begin the season. During the 2003 off-season, superstar guard Kobe Bryant had been accused of sexual assault in Colorado. Media attention surrounding the case would prove to be an ongoing distraction for the team, and Bryant missed games during his trial. In addition, Bryant's feud with superstar center Shaquille O'Neal reached a peak during the season, as both players criticized each other in the media. Payton struggled with coach Phil Jackson's triangle offense, and Malone missed significant time due to injuries.

Despite the setbacks, the Lakers finished the season with a 56–26 overall record, good enough to clinch the second seed in the Western Conference en route to the playoffs. In the playoffs, they defeated the Houston Rockets, the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, and the Minnesota Timberwolves to once again earn the franchise its 28th appearance in the NBA Finals. The Lakers entered the Finals against the Detroit Pistons as favorites. This was the third meeting between the Lakers and the Pistons in the NBA Finals, after both franchises met in 1988 and 1989, with each winning in both years respectively. However, the underdog Pistons' strong defense and teamwork propelled them to their third championship in franchise history, and the star-studded Lakers would collapse in five games. After the season, Jackson was fired and O'Neal (who requested a trade) was dealt to the Miami Heat.

Draft picks


Roster listing
2003–04 Los Angeles Lakers roster
Pos.No.NameHeightWeightDOB (YYYY-MM-DD)From
SG8Bryant, Kobe6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)205 lb (93 kg)1978-08-23Lower Merion HS
C7Cook, Brian6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)234 lb (106 kg)1980-12-04Illinois
PG2Fisher, Derek6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)210 lb (95 kg)1974-08-09Arkansas-Little Rock
SF17Fox, Rick6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)230 lb (104 kg)1969-07-24North Carolina
SF3George, Devean6 ft 8 in (2.03 m)235 lb (107 kg)1977-08-29Augsburg
PF54Grant, Horace Injured6 ft 10 in (2.08 m)245 lb (111 kg)1965-07-04Clemson
PF11Malone, Karl6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)250 lb (113 kg)1963-07-24Louisiana Tech
PF14Medvedenko, Slava6 ft 10 in (2.08 m)253 lb (115 kg)1979-04-04Ukraine
C34O'Neal, Shaquille7 ft 1 in (2.16 m)325 lb (147 kg)1972-03-06LSU
PG20Payton, Gary6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)180 lb (82 kg)1968-07-23Oregon State
SG21Rush, Kareem6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)200 lb (91 kg)1980-10-30Missouri
SF9Russell, Bryon6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)225 lb (102 kg)1970-12-31Long Beach State
C31Sampson, Jamal Injured6 ft 11 in (2.11 m)235 lb (107 kg)1983-05-13California
SF5Udoka, Ime6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)215 lb (98 kg)1977-08-09Portland State
PF4Walton, Luke6 ft 8 in (2.03 m)235 lb (107 kg)1980-03-28Arizona
Head coach
Assistant coach(es)

  • (C) Team captain
  • (DP) Unsigned draft pick
  • (FA) Free agent
  • (S) Suspended
  • Injured Injured

Last transaction: 2004–01–30

Regular season

Season standings

By division

By conference

Game log

2003–04 game log
Total: 56–26 (Home: 34–7; Road: 22-19)
2003–04 season schedule

Record vs. opponents


West First Round

(2) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (7) Houston Rockets: Lakers win series 4–1

Last Playoff Meeting: 1999 Western Conference First Round (Los Angeles won 3-1)

West Conference Semifinals

The Lakers playing against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals at the SBC Center.

(2) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (3) San Antonio Spurs: Lakers win series 4–2

Last Playoff Meeting: 2003 Western Conference Semifinals (San Antonio won 4-2)

West Conference Finals

(1) Minnesota Timberwolves vs. (2) Los Angeles Lakers: Lakers win series 4–2

Last Playoff Meeting: 2003 Western Conference First Round (Los Angeles won 4-2)

NBA Finals

Series Summary

Team/Game12 (OT)345Wins
Los Angeles (West)75996880871
Detroit (East)879188881004
  • (OT) denotes a game that required overtime.

The Finals were played using a 2-3-2 site format, where the first two and last two games are held at the team with home court advantage. This is only used in the Finals, all other playoff games are held in a 2-2-1-1-1 format (the team with home court advantage starts).


The Lakers had a star-studded lineup that included offseason acquisitions Karl Malone and Gary Payton as well as mainstays Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. Malone and Payton were perennial All-Stars; Payton had led the Seattle SuperSonics to the Finals in 1996, while Malone's Utah Jazz reached the Finals in 1997 and 1998. However, both had been defeated by Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. By 2003, Malone and Payton were in the latter stages of their respective careers and were no longer playing on championship-contending teams. Both Malone and Payton took pay cuts to sign with the Lakers in an effort to win a championship.

Game One

Sunday, June 6, 2004, 14:30 at the Staples Center.

Considered to be a stunning upset by most of the NBA world, the Detroit Pistons managed to defeat the Lakers with imposing defense. Defensively clamping down on everyone but Bryant and O'Neal, the Pistons managed to hold everyone else to a total of 16 points.

The Pistons trailed the Lakers 41–40 at halftime, but a 10–4 surge capped by Billups's 3-pointer gave the Pistons the lead. O'Neal's foul trouble furthered the scoring gap, with the Pistons leading by 13 points early in the fourth quarter.

Box Score

Team1st Qt.2nd Qt.3rd Qt.4th Qt.Total
Los Angeles1922171775

Game Two

Tuesday, June 8, 2004, 15:04 at the Staples Center.

The second game was close throughout the first half, but in the third quarter Detroit would score 30 points, cutting the deficit 68–66. However, at the end of the fourth quarter, Kobe Bryant's 3-point shot at 2.1 seconds to go would tie the game at 89–89. The Lakers and Pistons would then go to overtime, with the Lakers outscoring the Pistons 10–2.

Box Score

Team1st Qt.2nd Qt.3rd Qt.4th Qt.OTTotal
Los Angeles182624211099

Game Three

Thursday, June 10, 2004, 14:31 at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

The Pistons beat Los Angeles by 20 in their first NBA Finals appearance together at The Palace of Auburn Hills since 1989 to take a 2–1 lead in the series. The 68 points scored by the Lakers set a franchise record for the fewest points scored in a playoff game. Previous night, a group of overzealous Pistons fans made it difficult for the Lakers to get their rest by harassing them until 4am at their hotel in nearby Birmingham. Fans were screaming outside the building until management at the hotel called the police.

Box Score

Team1st Qt.2nd Qt.3rd Qt.4th Qt.Total
Los Angeles1616191768

Game Four

Sunday, June 13, 2004, 14:49 at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Again, the Pistons defeated the Lakers, although this time by eight, to take a 3–1 series advantage.

Box Score

Team1st Qt.2nd Qt.3rd Qt.4th Qt.Total
Los Angeles2217172480

Game Five

Tuesday, June 15, 2004, 14:32 at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

In Game 5, the Pistons won their first championship since 1990, and Larry Brown finally won his title. The Pistons defense had overcome the high-scoring Laker offense, winning the game by 13, winning the series 4-1, and also ending a long Laker dynasty that lasted for many years. The game saw the end of Phil Jackson's first run as the coach (he returned for the 2005-06 season), and saw O'Neal, Payton, and Malone's last games in Laker uniforms (O'Neal and Payton were both acquired by the soon-to-be NBA Champions Miami Heat and Malone retired).

Box Score

Team1st Qt.2nd Qt.3rd Qt.4th Qt.Total
Los Angeles2421142887

Player stats

  GPGames played  GS Games started MPG Minutes per game
 FG% Field-goal percentage 3P% 3-point field-goal percentage FT% Free-throw percentage
 RPG Rebounds per game APG Assists per game SPG Steals per game
 BPG Blocks per game PPG Points per game

Regular season


Award winners


See also

External links

Uses material from the Wikipedia article 2003–04 Los Angeles Lakers season, released under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.